2 accidentally wounded; new law keeps facts about gun owner secret

By Jason Clayworth
Des Moines Register

Iowa’s recently expanded gun law prohibits Polk County’s sheriff from revealing whether a man who accidentally shot and injured two people in Des Moines Sunday had a valid permit to carry the handgun.

That man — Zakarey Gwinn, 27, of Grimes — was previously ordered when he was 14 to undergo counseling after he carried a revolver into a Grimes school, court records show.

On Sunday, Gwinn was pulling something from his pocket when his handgun accidentally fired, the round ricocheting from the floor and hitting a 9-year-old girl and 62-year-old woman with shrapnel, Polk County Sheriff officials said.

The two were treated and later released from a hospital.

Gwinn cooperated with investigators. On Monday, Polk County officials said they did not plan to charge him with a crime, including “reckless use of a firearm,” after investigators determined the incident did not meet the criteria for such an offense.

Polk County law enforcement told the Register they could not reveal whether Gwinn had a valid permit to carry the weapon, citing the law Iowa Republicans passed last year that dramatically enhanced Iowans’ ability to buy and use guns.

“As of February of 2017, we can’t say whether someone has a permit to carry. We are handcuffed by that,” said Lt. Richard Blaylock, a public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff.

That law, House File 517, allows children to use handguns under adult supervision, expands existing “stand your ground” laws, creates an avenue for Iowans to sue cities or counties that enact gun-free zones, legalizes short-barreled rifles and shotguns and allows permit-holders to carry handguns in the Capitol.

A final provision of the law provides confidentiality for permit-holders. That confidentiality also applies to those involved in a shooting that injures others.

At the time, then-Gov. Terry Branstad said the legislation “makes Iowa one of the most pro-Second Amendment states in the country.”

The law allows the release of the information only through a court order or the consent of the person who is the subject of the records. Efforts to reach Gwinn were unsuccessful Tuesday.

“This is a matter of public safety,” Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, who voted against the law, said Tuesday.

The issue is personal for Abdul-Samad. His son was fatally shot more than 20 years ago and he frequently speaks in favor of gun control.

“We as a state have to stand up. We have to say, ‘Hey, we expect our government to be transparent and we have a right to know,'” Abdul-Samad said.

Rep. Matt Windschitl, R-Missouri Valley, whose family recently sold its longtime gun store, championed the 2017 law and on Tuesday stood behind the exemption that blocks the public’s access to information about legal gun carriers.

Windschitl said he has confidence in law enforcement. Had someone involved in a shooting been carrying a gun illegally, that person almost certainly would have been arrested, he said.

Iowa law doesn’t require people to carry weapons in holsters or other protective devices to prevent accidental firings, but it is a good idea that might have prevented Sunday’s shooting, Windschitl said.

He said he would oppose to efforts to alter the law, including rules that would require people who carry a weapon in public to use protective holders or gear.

“It’s an individual’s fundamental right,” Windschitl said. “How they carry it should be at their discretion.”